from the blog.

Dodging the Grenades

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.

I never know when one is going to land on me. It might be a cliché picture of a specific spaghetti sauce, or an ultrasound photo; it might be casually dropped in the context of a growing family photo, or thrown in my face. Either way I always catch it like a brick to the gut, a grenade in my hand.

When I first started really struggling with getting pregnant, I lamented about how easy it was for others. With each disappointing cycle that passed, there seemed to be at least one pregnancy announcement to go with it. People would say, “There must be something in water.” And I would inquire, “WHERE IS THIS WATER YOU ALL ARE DRINKING?”

As IUI after IUI failed for us and baby after baby was born to others, as soon as I saw an ultrasound picture or equally explosive proclamation, I blocked the person from my Facebook feed. It was never personal toward them, nothing they did wrong. Then, I would make quick work of reinforcing the protective wall I was always in the process of building with the emotional bricks repeatedly being hurled my way. Eventually the towering wall insulated me and I didn’t care anymore about pregnancy announcements. Prior to my second IVF, I made peace with my infertility. “My family may or may not happen,” I told myself, without really knowing if I would find a way to be fine either way. The more I accepted that, the easier it was to ignore the ease with which others grew their family trees.

My children have stealthily chiseled away at that brick and mortar.

This morning, scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across a photo, casually and happily announcing the anticipated arrival of a third child. This woman is a lovely acquaintance, has never said or done a mean thing to me, is part of one of my communities—but it got me, right in the solar plexus this time.

I could feel my heart beat a little faster, with light sweat forming on my brow as my body prepared to fight or flight, looking at all of the congratulations by mutual friends. I “liked” the announcement myself and felt generally happy for her. I wouldn’t expect anyone for even a second to withhold the status of “feeling excited.” And then I turned inward and felt sorry for my own experiences—the losses, the treatments, the years of using all of my vacation days for doctor’s appointments, the money and hope spent. I could feel the weight with which I buried myself in self criticism—how my body and age had failed me and my husband year after year.

My anxiety clouded my perception of everything I saw for the next four hours. I was getting down on myself; everything I saw on social media made me feel like I was an outsider looking in on a world that I would never understand, nor would accept me as part of it. The anxiety and irritability built up until I was the grenade, blowing up in my husband’s face.

I put down the phone. I stopped looking at the screen that was reflecting back at me a distorted view of everything I saw.

I waited for the exposed nerves that triggered my anxiety to calm down, decrease their inflammation.

I don’t expect trigger warnings. Life doesn’t come with a trigger warning and I grew up in a time and place when they didn’t seem to exist. But I also grew up without social media. I also grew up in a time when someone’s random ultrasound picture wouldn’t show up out of nowhere—there was insulation from the onslaught of the sharing culture.

I happily shared my own pregnancy announcement; why isn’t it okay with me to see others’ announcements? Because when I am on the outside looking in on people’s lives and marriages, conceiving children is assumed to be as perfect as possible. It is the projection that I create and compare with my own experience, and I am envious that their perceived perfect pregnancy doesn’t equal the rigorous, heartbreaking, grueling situation I endured. I feel sorry for myself and I don’t expect anyone else to understand. It isn’t anyone else’s issue but mine, with which I need to make peace.

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  1. This speaks so strongly to all of us I would guess. I don’t think the sting will ever fully go away from those triggers. You’re right, trigger warnings are nice but can’t be expected. It’s so heard to steel yourself to everything though, it’s exhausting.

  2. Sigh. I could identify with this. We are trying for #2, not currently with any assistive reproductive technologies. I feel very lucky to have my beautiful daughter, and knowing she is here takes the some of the sting out of a failed cycle, for sure. But I definitely resent that other people get pregnant easily,and can plan and space their pregnancies how they like: we have no such options. On the other hand I have so much that other people might wish for too, so I know self pity is self indulgent of me. I try to balance the emotions with lots of cold hard rationality: sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

    1. This is exactly what I wanted to say! I feel like a stuck record, but the pain of miscarriage and infertility and a traumatic birth coexist with the joy of the exquisite creature I call my daughter.

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